Methodist Mission & Ecumenical
Newsletter December 2007 Secretary: John Roberts
Churches lobby at United Nations
Leaders from the World Council of Churches (WCC) and its member churches recently met in New York to interact with the United Nations (UN) as part of their ongoing advocacy efforts. The meeting explored ways in which the voice of the churches may have more impact at the United Nations. The UN deputy secretary general Asha-Rose Migiro, told the meeting of the critical challenges and opportunities facing the UN. "Civil society organizations like the World Council of Churches are essential partners and natural allies of the United Nations. Today, we need your support more than ever."," said Migiro.
On the opening day, the WCC general secretary Samuel Kobia met the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon at the UN headquarters. Both reaffirmed their commitment to collaborate in pursuing a number of shared objectives. "As the UN faces the 21st century highlighting the interrelatedness of development, security and human rights, the WCC strongly believes multilateralism is the only way to respond to the challenges of today," said WCC general secretary Samuel Kobia at the meeting. That is why the WCC is committed "to the principles and purposes of the UN". UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon expressed "deep appreciation for the work of the WCC". He said the Council is a key member of the UN constituency, given not only what it means in terms of worldwide church representation, but also the common objectives shared by the two organizations and the "significant contribution made by the WCC in the areas of democracy and human rights".
Among the issues the two general secretaries discussed were climate change, the situation in the greater Horn of Africa, nuclear disarmament, the struggle for peace in the Middle East, and the work to overcome poverty and economic injustice.
Recognising that "religion has a big, positive role to play in the search for global peace and harmony," the WCC general secretary announced the Council's intention to propose that the UN declare a "Decade of Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace". The proposal would be submitted to the UN together with an international consultative group in the course of the coming year. WCC News 30 October 2007
"Church unity is like riding a bicycle. We will fall unless we go forward." So said Korean missiologist Wonsuk Ma to participants at the Global Christian Forum which took place in November in Limuru, near Nairobi, Kenya. In a keynote address Ma analysed Christian developments in unity and mission over the last century. He affirmed that in Christian mission, the seemingly contradictory emphases on "life before death" and on "life after death" - which have separated "mainline" and "evangelical" Christians for decades - are actually complementary and in need of each other.
A Pentecostal theologian from Korea and the head of the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies in the UK, Ma based his reflection on his personal journey, describing himself as a second generation Christian who grew up in an environment hostile towards his faith expression. While the "life before death" camp focuses on the "creation of a just society," the "life after death" camp emphasises the "the soul saving business". For the former camp, all the issues that hinder the goal of justice are mission topics. For the latter camp, evangelism and church planting are the key topics.
However, Ma affirmed, "these two approaches are complementary to each other" as the announcement of the gospel "has to include the earthly aspect as well as the heavenly one". To the extent that "each 'life' camp has a part of the whole truth," each of them "does not represent the full truth" and "one is never complete without the other".
The "evangelical" camp, said Ma, who affirmed he belongs to a radical branch of it, has spent "energy in 'converting everyone' to our form of Christianity, including other Christians as much as non-believers." In addition to indulging in "aggressive evangelism," sometimes portrayed as "sheep-stealing," this camp has also invested "much time and energy trying to figure out who is in and who is out". On the other hand, affirmed Ma, the "ecumenical" camp has created an environment that made it "simply impossible for some churches to approach the network." In that way this camp, too, has established distinctions between those who are "inside" and those who are "outside" the circle.
In his address, Ma compared the story of the relationships between the two "life camps" to a tale of two siblings who never met each other till today, when a long process of "self-critical reflection and growing awareness of each other" has led the two "much closer to each other than was possible decades ago".
For Ma, the years ahead will see those riding the bicycle of Christian unity facing major challenges. "There will be more reasons why divisions will further intensify, on the one hand, and a more urgent and predominant reason why the church should work together, on the other hand."
However, Ma believes that occasions like the Global Christian Forum have the potential to foster an "authentic ecumenicity by combining open koinonia, Spirit-filled worship, and diligent learning to discern what the Lord is doing in different Christian communions".
Ma's presentation was considered both provocative and stimulating by many at the forum, which included some 240 church leaders from Protestant, Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, Evangelical, and Pentecostal and other churches and interchurch organisations from around the world. The event is being described as one of the most inclusive Christian gatherings ever to advance Christian unity and explore common challenges. Juan Michel WCC News Service.8 November 2007
News in brief
Methodist Conference 2007
The November Methodist Conference of the Methodist Chuch of New Zealand:
· noted the continuing significant relationship with the United Church in the Solomon Islands, and the United Church in Papua New Guinea;
· reaffirmed its commitment to a national expression of the ecumenical movement by churches in Aotearoa New Zealand in a form yet to be determined, acknowledged that the work of the Strategic Thinking Group has come to an end without any clarity as to the way ahead, resolved in cooperation with those churches and individuals who have been on the traditional ecumenical journey to create an ecumenical space to explore the meaning of ecumenical vision in this time and place;
· affirmed the National Statement on Religious Diversity endorsed as basis for further dialogue by the National Interfaith Forum in Hamilton, February 2007, and encouraged the development of good interreligious relations at all levels in the life of the Methodist Connexion
noted the statements of the Methodist Consultative Council of the Pacific that met in Auckland in April 2007 concerning HIV and AIDS, and asked parishes to engage with the issues raised in these statements and report to their respective synod groupings by 30 June 2008, and encouraged parishes to observe the theme of Worlds AID Day 2007 (Take the Lead: Stop AIDS, Keep the Promise) in their services of worship on Sunday 2nd December, or some other suitable Sunday, using the material prepared by the ecumenical Advocacy Alliance and available at
· www.e-alliance.ch/hiv_resources.jsp/media/media-7092.doc or from the Mission and Ecumenical Secretary at email@example.com
Rev Dr Sir Ravu Henao, a founding bishop of the United Church in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, died on 18 October in Port Moresby. He was executive secretary of the Bible Society of Papua New Guinea from 1980 up until his retirement in 1988.
Gladys Larkin died suddenly on 19 October in Christchurch. She was a trained and registered nurse who went to serve the Methodist Church of New Zealand in the Solomon Islands from 1960 to 1970. She was based at Helena Goldie Hospital in Munda. Her greatest contribution was to establish the Nurse Aide Training School at the hospital in 1960.
Jack Penman was a leading ecumenist in the MCNZ. His ecumenical journey was heavily influenced by personal contact with DT Niles the great Asian ecumenist, and by participation in the Graduate School of Ecumenical Studies at the Ecumenical Institute, Bossey, Geneva 1963/64. Throughout his whole ministry Jack sought to work ecumenically.
Season’s greetings to all from Methodist Mission and Ecumenical.
May you have peace-filled Christmas and a good beginning to the New Year
Methodist Mission & Ecumenical
Newsletter October 2007 Secretary: John Roberts
In August John Roberts, the Mission and Ecumenical secretary made a two week post-earthquake and tsunami solidarity visit to the United Church Solomon Islands. This was preceded by a one week visit to the United Church in Papua New Guinea. Here the secretary reports briefly on his visit.
in the Central West region; Goldie College (Banga Island), Helena Goldie Hospital and the Assembly Office (Munda). Discussion focused on the impact of the disaster, assistance provided, and the future of projects funded by Mission and Ecumenical.
Visits were made to Nukiki, Sasamugga and Taro in the Lauru (Choiseul) region; Gizo township, Titiana village Gizo Island), and Vonunu (Vella Lavella Island),
Near to Gizo is (or was) the village of Titiana. It was a scene of almost total devastation. Buildings lay in their wrecked state. Only a few families were living there in makeshift dwellings and tents. The graves of the dead were well cared for with some having simple leaf huts built over them. Most of the people of the village are still living up on the hill under tarpaulins which are slowly deteriorating. Access to safe water is a problem and sanitation a concern. The United Church has been providing trauma counseling, but with aid agencies such as Red Cross now withdrawing from the area life will get even harder for these people.
At Sasamugga some people were still living up on the hills but not under tarpaulins. They had built themselves simple leaf huts which will last for two or three years. Most people were living back on the village site. Here houses were being repaired and gardens tended. These people were moving on in a way not yet possible for the people of Titiana. The church has contributed significantly to this.
The earthquake and tsunami have affected the copra project at Vonunu on Vella Lavella island. with some additional financial assistance required to assist it to become fully functioning once again. I met with the project manager, board of managers, and other interested people at Vonunu. Visits were also made to Niarovai and Eleotoe villages and they are keen to join the project. The project is now making a modest financial return to the church.
At Helena Goldie Hospital I met with senior hospital staff. The proposed Davinia Taylor memorial building will now be more closely linked to the Nurse Aide Training School which is to get a curriculum upgrade beginning in 2010. The building will provide teaching rooms, a library and seminar facilities. Construction could begin before the end of the year.
The proposed children’s and youth centre, to be built at Munda and funded from donations for the 2006 special appeal has been on hold due to the disaster of 2nd April. I was able to meet with the architect and assembly office staff, and a process was put in place that could see construction begin by early next year.
At Goldie College I met with the principal and staff. Extensive damage to Goldie College buildings as a result of the earthquake of 2nd April resulted in temporary closure of the school. It reopened once plans for its continuing operation were in place. Emergency funding from Christian World Service (with a little from Mission and Ecumenical) enabled the construction of temporary accommodation for staff. Female students are now accommodated in the dining hall. However many school buildings remain unsafe for use. Seventh form classes will resume in 2008.
Papua New Guinea
I visited the Bougainville region to see the new regional office building at Hutjena and held discussions with staff there. This was followed by a visit to Rarongo Theological College on New Britain Island and discussion with faculty staff and some students. On George Brown Day (15th August), I attended a reconciliation ceremony between the Tolai people and representatives of the Methodist Church of Fiji. It took place inland on the Gazelle Peninsula of East New Britain Province. In April 1878 four Fijian missionaries who were under the supervision of Methodist Church of Australasia missionary George Brown, were attacked, killed and eaten by Tolai people. The Tolai people, many of whom are now UCPNG members sought a reconciliation with the Fijian Methodist Church. The moving ceremony was witnessed by some four thousand people. A reception at the residence of the Fiji High Commissioner followed on 16th August.
Pacific Christians challenged to be assertive
The Pacific Conference of Churches met for its 9th Assembly 2-8 September in Pago Pago, American Samoa with the theme "Atua [God], empower us to be liberating communities." Pacific representatives need to be assertive “in bringing Pacific perspectives and experience into international forums,” said the World Council of Churches (WCC) president for the Pacific region, Mr John Taroanui Doom, in addressing participants at the He called on the 200 delegates from 25 churches and seven national councils of churches attending the gathering to change the attitude and mindset which makes Pacific people feel “junior or inexperienced”. Among the “major issues” affecting the Pacific region and the world, Doom mentioned “colonialism, migration problems, the downside of tourism, issues of democracy and good governance, the ravages of climate change and its long term effects, [and] the geo-political tensions played out in our region by larger nations”.
In his address to the assembly World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia said the churches in the Pacific must become "signs of hope" as they "bear witness to the Gospel and work together to address the issues that most concern the peoples of the region.” He said that the witness of the Pacific churches takes place amidst "new challenges to political stability, environmental well-being and economic and cultural autonomy," Kobia expressed the hope that the Assembly would be an "opportunity to focus the attention of the churches and councils on a common vision of unity and witness, and to coordinate strategies to address the critical issues within the region". WCC News
A code for religious conversion
The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), an association of organisations and churches with a membership of some 420 million Christians worldwide, has joined the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Vatican in supporting a code of conduct to guide activities seeking converts to Christianity. At a consultation in Toulouse, France, 8-12 August, some 30 Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Pentecostal and Evangelical theologians and church leaders from Europe, Asia, Africa and the United States, gathered to outline the content of the code of conduct, which is expected to be finalized by 2010.
Among the issues identified by the participants as elements upon which the code of conduct should be based are: common understandings of conversion, witness, mission and evangelism, and concern for human dignity; a distinction between aggressive proselytising and evangelism; the balance between the mandate to evangelise and the right to choose one’s religion. “Although these are very preliminary findings, the fact that representatives from all these walks of Christian life have been able to meet and discuss such a complex issue, starting to build a consensus, is in itself a success,” said Rev. Dr Hans Ucko, WCC's programme executive for interreligious dialogue and cooperation.
Its promoters expect the code of conduct to fulfil several goals: be an advocacy tool in discussions with governments considering anti-conversion laws, to help to advance the cause of religious freedom, address other religions’ concerns about Christian proselytism and inspire them to consider their own codes of conduct, and also help to ease intra-Christian tensions.
None of those involved intend (nor have the means) to impose the code of conduct on their constituencies, but they all trust that it will be able to “impact hearts and minds” and allow for “moral and peer pressure.” The next step in this study project will be a meeting in 2008 in which the code of conduct will be drafted. WCC News
Methodist Mission & Ecumenical
Newsletter September 2007 Secretary: John Roberts
In May, Ken Skinner and his wife Brenda of Waitakere Parish, joind a work party at Rarongo Theological College of the United Church in Papua New Guinea
It was a strange feeling preparing to return to our old haunts of 40-50 years ago. Would we be fit enough to be of some use to the work parties? How would our bodies react to tropical heat and humidity? Would things have changed so much to be strange and unpleasant?
As the journey commenced and we got used to anti-malarials and upset tummies the feeling grew stronger. "Nothing can stop us now.We are on our way. Bring it on!"
We arrived at Port Moresby. Wow!- real air bridges - from plane to terminal – Wow!- real air conditioning in the main building! Then a warm welcome from the local church - drinks, leis,gifts and smiling faces.
A ten minute walk from the international to the domestic terminal and we were feeling at home! Crowds, smells, heat, not quite so efficient passenger processing and a long hot walk to the plane - flashback to 32 years ago carrying our eighteen month old son and kicking his dropped teddy bear ‘Travelling Ted’ along the hot asphalt.
Finally to Rabaul on a plane that advertised its destination as "Hoskins via Tokua airport", No mention of Rabaul. Hoskins is hundreds of kilometers from Rabaul. Were we on the right flight? Some other passengers looked suspiciously like work party members so we sat back and looked at the scenery. We crossed the Owen Stanley ranges, somewhere below was the Kokoda Trail, fascinated by the towering cloud formations peculiar to the tropics, and here and there an isolated village visible through deep cloud canyons. Finally the first sight of New Britain. Dense jungle gave way to coconut palms, roads, houses and an airport that proclaimed itself "New Rabaul Airport - Tokua", a new airport built a safe distance from Rabaul's destructive volcano.
What a joy to meet old friends! William Varamari (one of my wife Brenda's ex students but now District Inspector of Schools) and Bishop Albert Burua - current area bishop - both there on other business and not part of the official welcome party. Already our expectations had been exceeded!
We drove in gathering dusk through coconut plantations and the straggling Kokopo township on sealed roads over the hills and across the island with electric lights illuminating every village and trade store. What progress! And glimpses of a gloomy volcano - squat and menacing in the distance. Kerevat, Vunakabi, George Brown College and finally Rarongo. A quick dispatch to our accommodation and then a welcome meal and concert and finally to bed surrounded by the sultry heat and unique odours and sounds of the Gazelle Peninsula.
And so to work. We had joined the second work party so it seemed a bit vague where we fitted for a while. Full marks to the advance and first parties who began the work. Looking back and comparing early plans and expectations with final achievements it was a brilliant result.The important work was completed and operational at the end of the programme.
A large new hall with toilets and kitchen; a renovated Library with data cabling was virtually doubled in size; an abandoned derelict house renovated and the College Principal moved in; a medical clinic upgraded and repainted; another old house, also a disaster area, renovated and converted to an administration building (not quite complete). These were core educational facilities. Still to be completed were a building containing two three bedroom flats and a six bedroom dormitory for single students. Electrical wiring, data cabling, water supply and sanitation were all upgraded and what was not finished was left in the hands of competent local workers.
As well as giving the Rarongo staff great encouragement and better facilities, the rebuilding programme seemed to generate a desire in the local church and community to give greater support to church institutions that were set up by the departing missionary groups before independence in 1975. Some like Gaulim Teachers’ College are now part of the national education system, but specifically Christian training institutions are consequently underfunded.
The United Church Moderator and local Bishops are asking village congregations to increase their financial support for the training of fulltime church workers and many lay people are willing to take the role of managers, fund raisers and workers to help run these large campus type institutions and see that they do not fall ino disrepair again.
The United Church in the Gazelle Peninsula area has suffered serious financial losses over the past fifteen years because the volcanic eruptions destroyed a lot of property. Thousands of people had to be relocated and start their lives all over again.
Nationally the United Church’s income producing enterprises of plantations, construction, printing and a book shop, went bankrupt with serious financial consequences. Only recently have there been signs of a more optimistic financial outlook.
Spiritually it was exhilarating to be back in Papua New Guinea. There was no poverty of spirit in the Church .A huge increase in population has resulted in a greatly increased number of village churches and bigger congregations in the existing ones. Bishop Albert Burua commented, ”Our buldings are too small”. There seems to be no difficulty recruiting trainee pastors, youth
workers, theological students to meet the growing needs.
They have developed a very lively style of worship, if Rarongo morning devotions is anything to go by. Music is mostly supplied by guitar, but recorded music and keyboards are not uncommon, and the unaccompanied singing is still divine.
The country faces huge problems including HIV and AIDS, family violence, crime, poverty, unemployment, displacement, corruption and underfunded health and education services,
A strong Christian influence from a well trained, confident and vocal church is very important to promote moral values and Christian hope that can survive the tough challenges facing this fascinating country.
It is important that we continue the climate of partnership built up over the past few years. We have much to learn from and share with each other.
News in Brief
Women’s Day of Prayer in Solomons
Women around the Solomon Islands celebrated 22 July as a Day of Prayer with the theme “Women of Faith: Empowerment for Mission”. Women in Honiara gathered at Holy Cross Catholic cathedral. Amongst the guests were Lady Alice Waena, wife of the Governor-General, and Mrs Emily Sogavare, wife of the Prime Minister. The Day of Prayer was founded in 1990 by women’s groups from the Church of Melanesia, the Catholic Church, the United Church, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the South Sea Evangelical Church. The objective was to have a strong united body which represents Christian women’s voices and aspirations and strengthens an ecumenical spirit. The women seek to raise awareness on women’s concerns and wider issues such as national unity, rights, and peacemaking. It encourages networking amongst women’s church groups. President Joy Jino of the United Church acknowledged the women for honouring the day. She said that out in the provinces active women’s groups also celebrated the day. Solomon Star 23 July 2007
HIV and AIDS high on agenda for church conference
Samoa hosted the Episcopal Conference for the Association of Catholic Bishops in the Pacific in the last week of July, and high on their agenda, for the first time, was the issue of HIV and AIDS. It followed the local council of churches which met with the Fa’afafine association the week before for the very first time to discuss HIV and AIDS. The Bishops focused on developing pastoral responses to the epidemic and engaging communities in the response to HIV and AIDS. The Samoa Aids Foundation believes this is significant because of the central role the churches and religion play in society in the region. He says the bishops will break down barriers with their attitudes. Radio NZ Int 25 &2 6 July 2007
Ecumenical solidarity visit to Sri Lanka
War-torn Sri Lanka received the first of a series of ecumenical "living letters" teams which will visit Christian communities facing situations of violence in different
regions of the world in the run up to the 2011 International Ecumenical Peace Convocation being organized by the World Council of Churches. The ecumenical team visited Sri Lanka from 4-12 August. "Living letters" is a mission by church representatives to express solidarity with and learn from the peacemaking efforts of local churches. The team included four church representatives - from the USA, Kenya, Indonesia and South Korea. They met key church and civil society players, as well as people from the grassroots in areas affected by the fighting.
Conflict in Sri Lanka has over the past 25 years has claimed thousands of lives on both sides of the ethnic divide between the Sinhala and Tamil communities. Thousands of refugees have sought asylum abroad while many thousands are internally displaced. There have been summary executions, torture, illegal detentions, embargoes on essential items and the forced recruitment of children as fighters. WCC News 1 August 2007
CCA fund to mark ministry of Alan Brash
This is jubilee year for the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA). It is also 50 years since Dr Alan Brash left New Zealand for Prapat in Indonesia to become one of the first staff members of what was then the East Asia Christian Conference. The CCA has set up an endowment to fund its annual programmes – a step towards becoming more financially independent. Individuals and churches are invited to contribute to CCA’s jubilee in memory of Alan Brash’s contribution to the ecumenical movement. Donations should be sent to: The Alan Brash Memorial Appeal for the CCA Endowment Fund, c/- Christian World Service, P O Box 22652, Christchurch 8142.
Methodist Mission & Ecumenical
Newsletter August 2007 Secretary: John Roberts
Rapid urban growth leading to religious renewal
More people in the world are living in cities than ever before, and this is leading to renewed interest in religion, and confounding those who predicted a growth of secularisation, according to a new UN report. "Rapid urbanisation was expected to mean the triumph of rationality, secular values and the demystification of the world, as well as the relegation of religion to a secondary role. Instead, there has been a renewal in religious interest in many countries," the United Nations Population Fund says in its report, "The State of World Population 2007". The growth of new religious movements is primarily an urban phenomenon, the report notes. The report points to "radical Islam in the Arab region, Pentecostal Christianity in Latin America and parts of Africa, and the cult of Shivaji in parts of India". In China, where cities are growing at a breakneck pace, religious movements are fast gaining adherents, the report adds.
By 2008, more than half the world's current 6.7 billion people will live in cities, the report states. It says that by then, though mega-cities (urban areas with more than 10 million inhabitants) will continue to grow, most people will be living in cities of 500 000 or fewer. Globally, all future population growth will take place in cities, nearly all of it in Asia, Africa and Latin America, says the report launched on 27 June. It explains that in Asia and Africa this will mark a decisive shift from rural to urban growth, and will involve changing a balance that has lasted for millennia.
"The urbanisation is jolting mentalities and subjecting them to new influences," the report's main author, George Martine, is quoted as saying, by the London-based ‘Independent newspaper’. "And now one of the ways for people to reorganise themselves in this urban world is to associate themselves with new or strong, fundamentalist religion," Martine said. However the report cautions against a tendency to focus on extreme religious responses and "to lump them all under the rubric of 'fundamentalism'." While such extreme responses have gained numerous followers, "religious revivalism has varied forms with different impacts, ranging from detached 'new age' philosophy to immersion in the political process," states the UN report.
"Increased urbanisation, coupled with slow economic development and globalisation, has helped to increase religious diversity," the report notes. "Rather than revivals of a tradition, the new religious movements can be seen as adaptations of religion to new circumstances." Stephen Brown ENI 28 July 2007 www.eni.ch
Hope for Rural Communities
A deep awareness of world community quickly formed as 81 people visiting from 12 nations gathered for the International Rural Church Association’s (IRCA) fourth quadrennial conference. Members of the Canadian Rural Church Network hosted these visitors at Brandon University (July 3-9, 2007). Participants, from South Korea, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, Romania, Germany, England, Tonga, Indonesia, India, Czech Republic, Iceland and USA, attended in response to concerns affecting rural communities around the theme “Cries From the Heart”.
Keynote speaker John Ikerd, Economics Professor Emeritus from the University of Missouri, a strong advocate for the future of small sustainable farms, told delegates how “under the guise of economic development, rural communities are being colonised by giant multinational corporations who have no commitment to the future of rural people or their resources.” He urged delegates to seek alternatives. Roman Yuriga described the alternative energy initiatives his Orthodox Academy is making in the Czech Republic. Cameron Harder (Lutheran Seminary, Saskatoon, Canada) asked whether much of our food now is being sold at unreasonable cost? Some conference delegates shared stories about deteriorating water supplies, and discussed possibilities for intervention. Others shared stories of being devalued and discussed ways rural people could respond.
Through story-telling, prayer and song the conference affirmed that there are many visions of hope in the rural landscape. Churches can offer support, healing and build hope in rural communities that have been devalued and ignored. But it takes time to build trust and help the community work toward a vision of what it believes it can become. Shared leadership and cooperative decision-making were seen to be essential in the process of building vibrant communities. Joyce Sasse 13 July 2007
News in brief
Young Muslims, Jews and Christians share together
"How can we affirm our identity as Muslims, Jews and Christians not in separation or against each other but in relation to one another?" This is the question 21 young adults from 13 European, Middle Eastern, Asian, African and American countries have explored during a July seminar at the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Institute in Bossey. Activities included spiritual and academic exercises as well as sports, recreation and everyday tasks. The programme "Building an Interfaith Community" seeks to prepare the future generation of leaders in churches, other faith communities and society at large for the challenges of living peacefully in a world of religious plurality. Each day started with a moment of shared prayer and spirituality, prepared alternately by the Christian, the Jewish and the Muslim participants. The experience of living under the same roof, eating and washing dishes together, was enriched by lectures offered by specialists from Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities as well as through participation in services at a local synagogue, mosque and churches in Geneva. WCC News 12 July 2007
Plans are under way for a reconciliation ceremony between the United Church in Papua New Guinea and the Methodist Church of Fiji The United Church’s New Britain Region is organising the reconciliation with the Methodist Church of Fiji over the killing and eating of four Fijian Missionaries on 6 April 1878. The reconciliation this year will be part of the celebration of the arrival of the first South Seas Missionaries with their leader Dr George Brown at Port Hunter in the Duke of York Islands in August 1875. Post Courier May 2007
March for peace
Hundreds of people took part in a peace and reconciliation march in Port Moresby in June. Marchers were told peace must begin in their homes and extend to their communities. United Church senior pastor Edea Kedea, said no matter what everyone tried to do to achieve peace, this would not come without God. All Christians are ambassadors of Christ on earth, and therefore they must live according to his principles, including living in harmony with others, he said. That means those who are Christians must become new beings, desiring to live at peace with others, he said. The march, organised by the United Church urban region’s social gospel committee, started from Ela Beach and proceeded to Sir Hubert Murray Stadium. Post courier 12 June 2007.
Boseto calls for youth righteousness
United Church minister in the Solomon Islands and now Minister of Lands, Housing and Survey, Leslie Boseto, says that the training of youth to be righteous is very important for their future and for society. He said if youth are left alone, they could destroy communities because they feel neglected, rejected, unloved and not cared for. He called on communities to have a high regard for youth and to involve them in activities directed towards positive development. Both the church and government must do more for youth, Boseto said. Solomon Star 17 July 2007
Don’t rely on aid, says Sogavare
Don’t rely on aid donors to develop our country, Solomon islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has said. He spoke during the ecumenical service at Wesley United Church in Honiara to launch the Government’s “Bottom Up Approach” Development Strategy. Mr Sogavare said it is time Solomon Islanders develop themselves self-reliantly. Solomon Islands is amongst the least developed countries in the world and people must cooperate to develop it, said the Prime Minister. He said the country has a lot of resources. If these are utilised properly then we should not be having problems, he said. Mr Sogavare stressed that it is time development goes back to the rural areas where most people live. Solomon Star 17 July 2000
The secretary will be visiting the United Church in Papua New Guinea and the United Church Solomon Islands from 9 – 30 August. In Papua New Guinea he will have discussion with assembly office staff then visit Bougainville Region and Rarongo Theological College for discussion with staff relating to projects funded by Mission and Ecumenical. In the Solomon Islands there will be discussions with assembly office and Helena Goldie Hospital staff, before making visits to Choiseul, Gizo, Vonunu and Goldie College. The visit to the Solomon Islands church is a post 2nd of April earthquake/tsunami solidarity visit with an opportunity to see how the rehabilitation is going.
Methodist Mission & Ecumenical
Newsletter July 2007 Secretary: John Roberts
God wants believers to be green
This was the message that emerged from a Vatican conference on climate change which was the latest sign of growing concern by religious groups around the world over the fate of the planet. Scientists, environment ministers and leaders of various religions from 20 countries sat down for two days to discuss the implications of global warming and development. While the scientists spoke of the dynamics of greenhouse gases, temperature patterns, rain forests and exhaust emissions, the men and women of religion discussed the moral and theological aspects of protecting the environment. The conference, organised by the Vatican's Council for Justice and Peace, marked the most significant plunge to date by the Roman Catholic Church - the world's largest Christian grouping - into one of the hottest contemporary topics.
In recent years, the world's major religions have gone more green in the race to save the planet, which they teach mankind has in stewardship and must protect for future generations.
Over the past year, some evangelical Protestant churches in the United States -- strong conservative backers of President George W. Bush -- have broken ranks with the White House to call for urgent measures to protect the environment. National Catholic bishops’ conferences in some countries, including the United States and Australia, have issued statements or pastoral letters on climate change and the need to protect what most religions see as "the gift of creation".
"Climate change is one of the signs of the times affecting the Catholic Church as a global organisation. The Catholic Church must take a stand on this present-day and urgent question," said Bishop Bernard Uhl of Freiburg, Germany. Uhl said the time had come for an encyclical, the highest form of papal writing, on what he called "the future of creation". He said it would "energize" Catholics, other believers and world opinion on climate change. Bishop Christopher Toohey of Australia said believers should "have the courage and motivation under God's grace to do what we need to do to safeguard this garden planet".
Elias Abramides, a Greek Orthodox member of the World Council of Churches (WCC), told the gathering climate change was a "deeply spiritual issue" rooted in the scriptures. "We believe that the solutions to the problem will not only be of a political, technological and economic nature. We believe that ethics and religion will necessarily become essential components on which the solutions will be based," he said. "As Christians ... we need to recognise and accept the intimate ethical and deeply religious implications of climate change. It is a matter of justice, it is a matter of equity, and it is a matter of love: love for God the Almighty, love for the neighbour, love for creation," Abramides said. Philip Pullella Reuters 29 April 2007
Choosing a name for God
Publication of a new version of the Bible in the Solomon Islands Pijin language has generated a discussion on the word or name to be used for God. The Solomon Islands Translation Advisory Group (SITAG) is proposing use of the name “Iawe”. According to SITAG, one of the significant features of the Old Testament in Pijin is that it uses the name for God, “Iawe” which is an attempt to reflect the Hebrew Yahweh From discussion SITAG has noted that names are very significant in Solomon Islands culture. Many people have several names, some of which have restricted use and are known by only a few people. To know a person’s name is to know their character, their identity. To know a person’s name means that a relationship exists. This cultural value means that in the Solomons there is potentially a greater appreciation of God’s name than in many
western countries. Because of many English translations, there is confusion about the name of God in the Old Testament. However, God did not intend that we be confused about his name. Much of the confusion we have today may be due to fear and wrong thinking. In attempting to faithfully translate the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, the Pijin Bible translators have had to think carefully through the issue of translating God’s name. The Solomon Islands Christian Association plans to launch the Solomon Islands Pijin Bible in July next year. The Pijin New Testament was first released in 1993. Since that time some 15,000 copies have been in use. Many people have benefited from this translation since they have a much better command of Pijin than they do of English. At the time the Pijin New Testament was published, the Solomon Islands Christian Association asked that the Old Testament be also translated into Pijin. So that a full Bible in Pijin can be published, the New Testament needs some revision. Solomon Star 19 May 2007
News in brief
Rarongo work parties
New Zealanders Ken and Brenda Skinner (Waitakere Methodist Parish, Dave Buchan (Te Aroha Co-operating Parish) Geoff Warth (Te Puke/Mt Maunganui Methodist Parish) and Ewen Hutchinson (Greenlane Presbyterian), together with Dave Buchan’s daughter Keysha and her husband Kelvin joined United Church of Australia work parties for rebuilding work at Rarongo theological College of the United Church in Papua Guinea in May.
John Carr, the project manager, has circulated a report on what was achieved. The hall was finished, even the toilet floors were tiled and vinyl mats laid. The other two new steel-framed buildings are at different stages and will need a lot more work. The library requires some minor items to be completed. The verandah was constructed, stairs painted & stained, reception & computer desks and rewiring finished, data cabling linked to the administration building. Hoods over the windows, & all areas painted or stained. It looked great. Taylor House is finished. The Principal, Konio, and his wife moved in and were overjoyed. A stove and fridge were installed. The admin Building was taken on by local tradesmen who did all the reconstruction and relining work. The work party did the rewiring, plumbing, joinery & data cabling. The painting was a shared endeavour. The offices had doors and new locks installed. The new verandah and roof
sheeting were being finished when we left. Electrical work was not quite finished. Instructions and money were left for the local electrician to do the rest. Drainage work was completed. Staff and students were overjoyed at what had been done and thanked the work party members profusely with many gifts etc.
Does religion fuel conflicts?
Speaking at the German Protestant "Kirchentag", the largest Protestant gathering in Germany, World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia. affirmed that in the midst of conflicts, Christians are called by the gospel to work towards healing and reconciliation. Kobia said attributing outbursts of violence only to religion, even where it plays a role in the conflict, is not correct, since causes of violent conflicts are usually more complex. The current upsurge of new forms of religious fundamentalism "is probably most adequately interpreted as a form of collective resistance against cultural hegemony in the context of globalization," Kobia said.
What is required if people of different faiths are to be able to live together as neighbours who share the planet as a common home, is to overcome histories of domination and oppression. For Christians, this includes the need to come to terms with "sad chapters of Christian mission history," in which other religions were oppressed in often violent ways. "If we do not own up to this history, turn around and repent, this part of our past will always haunt the relationships among us and with people of other faiths," said Kobia. WCC 7 June 2007
Mobilising for peace in Israel/Palestine
Christian leaders from around the world, meeting in the Jordanian capital of Amman have called for an end to the "illegal occupation" of Palestinian territories by Israel. In a statement issued at the end of a three-day gathering, the leaders said they wanted to work with the Christian churches of Palestine and Israel to build bridges for an enduring peace, "to end these decades of injustice, humiliation and insecurity, to end the decades of living as refugees and under occupation". The conference, convened by the World Council of Churches, launched a "Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum" to help mobilise action to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and to promote inter-religious action for peace and justice. ENI 21 June 2007
Methodist Mission & Ecumenical
Newsletter June 2007 Secretary: John Roberts
World mission 100 years on
On the threshold of the 100th anniversary celebration of the 1910 Edinburgh World Mission Conference, widely regarded as the symbolic starting point of the modern ecumenical movement, World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia offered a sober analysis of the past century's achievements and failures, and called for an "ecumenically responsible evangelism".
Speaking in Edinburgh, Scotland, at a meeting to prepare the 100th anniversary celebration of the landmark event, Kobia affirmed: "We need a new Edinburgh and hope that the celebration we foresee for 2010 will be a step in that direction." This will require involving today's newer and most dynamic mission movements, Kobia said. These "are to be found among Christian traditions not represented in any of the formal forums that exist as a consequence of the ecumenical structures of last century". Only after acknowledging Christianity's new face, the result of the "spiritual revolution brought by the Pentecostal and charismatic movements and churches," can a "fruitful theological dialogue on priorities and disciplines in mission" be envisaged. It is particularly urgent that mission "be understood and practised in a way that does not lead to an increase of hatred and violence". New forms of "non-aggressive evangelism" must keep "the bold witness to Christ and God's kingdom in creative tension with respect for men, women and children of all convictions". For Kobia, "ecumenically responsible evangelism" means "a proclamation which, while critical of human pride and sin, makes it clear that God wants peace and not war, life and not death, unity and not division, forgiveness and not vengeance".
Reflecting on the famous Edinburgh maxim "the evangelisation of the world in this generation," the WCC general secretary acknowledged that 100 years later, the number of Christians in the world is proportionally the same: roughly a third of the world population. "Realistically speaking, it doesn't make sense to just repeat the Edinburgh catchphrase," Kobia said. Instead, and in view of the extent to which both the world and the landscape of Christianity have profoundly changed since 2010, he proposed a focus on "this generation's mission in a globalised world". According to Kobia, this should include "the healing of Christian divisions, building communities of healing and reconciliation, challenging all justifications of violence, striving for peace as God's gift, and sharing the gospel in Christ's way".
He said that the healing of wounded memories is a key mission issue, identifying the need for healing of the rift between "Christians of the evangelical mission family and Christians of the conciliar or ecumenical mission family". "We should find a way to confess mutual exaggerations and disrespect" so as to favour "an authentic reconciliation process" if any progress in co-operation around 2010 and beyond is to be achieved, Kobia said.
Planning for the 2010 World Mission Conference has been underway since the year 2000, with discussion taking place between church and mission representatives from Scotland and various international church and mission bodies. It will be a conference organised by diverse church and mission bodies preceded by a study process on issues relevant for mission and ecumenism today.
Many events are being planned by a range of groups to mark the centenary of the 1910 conference. In addition there will be a shared event which will be celebratory in nature and will seek to bring together the fruits of the lead-up study process. A coordinating office for the conference has been established with the University of Edinburgh providing office space and the WCC meeting salary and related costs.
The mission themes to be explored at the 2010 conference are: foundations for mission; Christian mission among other faiths; mission and postmodernities; mission and power; forms of missionary engagement; theological education and formation; Christian communities in contemporary contexts; mission and unity – ecclesiology and mission; mission spirituality and authentic discipleship.
WCC news 27 April 2007
Church sector helping Solomon Islands
Churches across the Solomon Islands play a vital role in community life, showing leadership, particularly in the provision of health and education services. The Solomon Islands Christian Association (SICA) and the Australian Government aid agency, AusAID, recently released a joint study that looks at the role of the churches in development and service delivery and points to ways the role can be strengthened.
The study charts the church sector’s capacity and coverage in terms of what churches and church-based organisations do in areas such as education and health, public policy decision making, addressing low level disputes such as those over land and property, and reconciliation and peace building.
SICA General Secretary, Rev Philemon Riti, says that Solomon Islands churches make significant contributions to the development and governance of the nation, particularly in education and health service delivery. “Churches in Solomon Islands provide about 27 per cent of formal and non-formal education services, and in the health sector they provide about 13 per cent,” the SICA General Secretary said. “Churches also see it as part of their duty to encourage good citizenship and build “strong character” of individuals and communities.”
The head of AusAID in Solomon Islands, Blair Exell, said the study shows how church capacities can be strengthened and expanded. “This study will be very useful because it points out areas where Solomon Islands Government, church-based organisations and donors can help the churches play an even more positive role in the development and governance of Solomon Islands,” Mr Exell said. “It will help us design better programs to help the churches help Solomon Islands.”
The numerous church communities in Solomon Islands fall within two broad categories of mainline churches and Pentecostal churches. The mainline churches are the Church of Melanesia, Catholic Church of Solomon Islands, South Sea Evangelical Church, Seventh-day Adventist Church, and United Church in Solomon Islands. Church of the Nazarene joins with these churches under SICA. Pentecostal church communities include Assembly of God, Christian Revival Church, Christian Outreach Church, Rhema, Church of the Living Word, Bible Way Centre, Kingdom Harvest, Agape Full Gospel, and Reigning Ministry. Together the congregations of these churches make up 97.7 per cent of the total population of Solomon Islands.
The study was undertaken by Cliff Bird of the United Church of Solomon Islands under the umbrella of SICA with involvement of the Solomon Islands Full Gospel Association (SIFGA) and supported by AusAID. The study will help SICA in its review of programmes and also help AusAID design programs for the community sector and civil society in Solomon Islands. Solomon Star 4 May 2007
News in brief from Papua New Guinea
Unity in overcoming AIDS urged
The Papua New Guinea Government has called on HIV and AIDS awareness groups, including churches, NGOs, donor agencies and civil societies to deal with the epidemic together. Health Minister Sir Peter Barter has called for a combined effort and a more serious approach from everyone involved in overcoming HIV and AIDS. He said the reality now was that HIV/AIDS was extending out from urban centres to include rural areas. When addressing a recent anti-HIV and AIDS workshop attended by donor agencies and NGOs in Port Moresby, Sir Peter said a test carried out by the health inspection team in one of the remote areas in the Highlands region revealed that there were many cases of HIV/AIDS in people between the ages of 45 and 55. “What we need is a faster roll-out of voluntary counselling and testing clinics and training of counselors so we can get the true picture.” The National 17 June 2007
Churches against casinos
The PNG Council of Churches is concerned about the legalisation of casino gambling in the country and has urged the Government to reconsider its approval of the act enabling “this dangerous and unwelcome addition to our country”.
In a statement, the council said official sanction and public acceptance of this imposition were contrary to the Christian principles to which we subscribe. “Gambling always runs counter to Christian expressions of love, respect and concern for others, which is deeply embedded in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Casino gambling is a most destructive form of gambling and the psychological impact of poker machines in particular, is more addictive than any other form of gambling,” Rev Samson Lowa, the chairman of the PNG Council of Churches said. The National 17 June 2007
Methodist Mission & Ecumenical
Newsletter May 2007 Secretary: John Roberts
The scandal of the slave trade
The transatlantic slave trade was an "African holocaust" that should never be forgotten, says a coalition of global church bodies that has called on churches, governments and businesses to repent for their part in the trade. "The global slave trade removed some of the most productive people in Africa, resulting in the African holocaust," said delegates representing the World Council of Churches, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Council for World Mission in a statement issued following a meeting in Geneva in March. The statement called on "Churches, governments and businesses that were unjustly enriched by the slave trade not only to repent but to demonstrate fruits of that repentance". The call came on the eve of the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the passing of the "Abolution of the Slave Trade Act" on 25 March 1807 by the British parliament.
At the same time the World Council of Churches (WCC) called for an apology from Western nations. "People of African descent in the diaspora and in Africa await an unambiguous apology and a clear sign from European nations that acknowledges their participation in this terrible part of colonial history" that was the slave trade, WCC general secretary Dr Samuel Kobia told UK prime minister Tony Blair. Kobia expressed the hope that under the prime minister's leadership, European nations could "begin a process of truth-telling. repentance and reconcilliation in order to promote an honest and open dialogue in relation to the scars left and as a part of the colonial legacy".
Kobia has also reminded the UK prime minister - after having done the same earlier with the archbishop of Canterbury - of a dream cherished by the renowned British missiologist and ecumenist Bishop Leslie Newbigin. After visiting Ghana's Elmina Castle, a medieval fortress where slaves were held captive in dungeons before being forcibly shipped to America, expressed the desire that '"some representative Englishman - an archibishop or prime minister - might come to Ghana and go down into that dungeon, kneel down on the floor and offer a prayer of contrition". ENI and WCC News March 2007
The small blue pottery jars on the pantry shelf
Hold peppercorns, cloves, nutmegs, cinnamon quills,
Cardamom pods and powdery ginger. Dull and drab.
But ease the corks and breathe the sensuous scent of history.
More precious than jewels a handful of pepper
Smuggled from the East for Europe's Queens and Kings.
Cloves against plague, cinnamon to mask decay,
Nutmeg for visions of flying, and ginger for gilded cakes.
For these, oceans, were claimed and conquered
And adventurers sailed beyond the world's edge
To seize the spicey prize and trade for gold,
And sell the people of the fragrant groves.
Empires, enterprises, corporations and cartels
Have sprouted from the spicy0island seeds,
To weave their tendrils in a strangling net of trade
That traps struggling captives in a mesh of poverty.
A fortune of bittersweet spices scented the crucified body.
The risen Jesus shed the linen shroud and spice,
And unencumbered walked out into the morning
To share his life and freedom and break all bonds.
Mission Project Updates
United Church Solomon Islands
Earthquake and tsunami impact
The devastation and loss of life that occurred in villages and towns throughout the Western and Choiseul Provinces of the Solomon Island as a result of the aerthquake and tsunami of 2nd April has had a huge impact on the Church. Moderator, David Barakana Havea, was quick to make pastoral visits to a number of the most affected areas. The assembly office has organized a team to make further bisits, provide counseling and spritual assistance and make impact assessment reports on property damage and its implications for community and church life. Early reports indicatesubstantial damage at Goldie College, which has had to close. Reports are awaited for the impact on Helena Goldie Hospital. it is know that other church run hospitals, clinics and school have been badly affected,m as havbe some church buildings. Mehtodist Mission and Ecumenical has worked with Christian World Service in the launching of an appeal at Easter to help in the reconstruction phase followinghtis disater. Mission and Ecumenical has attempted to keep the church informed of developments with regular email updates.
It is not yet known what impact the distaster has had on building of the Davinia Taylor Memorial Hall at Helena Goldie Hospital. Its completion will almost certainly be delayed. Commencement of the youth and children's facility at Kokeqolo is also likely to be delayed as attention is given to getting other areas of church infrastructure, such as hospitals and schools, restored. The copra project based at Vonunu on Vella Lavella Island has almost certinaly suffered. A report is awaited.
Rarongo Theological College
Several New Zealanders will join work parties for rebuilding work at this United Church in Papua Guinea theological college. Ken and Brenda Skinner (Waitakere Methodist Parish) and Dave Buchan (Te Aroha Co-operating Parish) depart on 3 May. Geoff Warth (Te Puke. Mt Maunganui Methodist Parish) and Ewen Hutchinson (Greelane Presbyterian), together with Dave Buchan's daughter Keysha and her husband Kelvin, who are in Australia on an OE, will join the team on 19 May. We wish them all a rewarding experience. Epworth Books has donated twelve books for Rarongo library. Thank you Epworth Books. Ken and Brenda will deliver these to the college. Geoff Warth will also be taking some books provided by his parish, but for the children's section which serves the young of the college community.
Library book purchases
Methodist Mission and Ecumenical continues to purchase texts for the library. With the help of Keith Carley (Kapiti Uniting Parish) 27 books have already been purchased this year and more will follow.
Special Appeal 2007
The appeal for a data projector purchase and internet access installation has so far raised $2163. This is a good start. We need a good deal more ot meet the purchase costs so please continue to support this appeal.
Assistance with tuition fees for another four students in 2007 is currently in process.
This is the amount that has been provided by Methodist Mission and Ecumenical to assist the work of Rarongo Thrological College in the past six years.
Zimbabwe's President Challenged by Churches
Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube has called for "peaceful street protests against the 27-year rule of President Robert Mugabe who has cracked down on opposition protests with ferocity as his country faces economic meltdown. "It's time for a radical stance and not soft speeches and cowardice and the time is now. We must stand up and fill the streets and demand that this man [Mugabe] stand down right now. As Zimbabweans we need courage to stand for our rights now. Now we must just stand up to this government" Ncube, a long-standing critic of excesses committeed by Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party told the Christian Alliance, which brings together church groups and is campaigning for political change in Zimbabwe. At the same time churches in Southern Africa have been calling on their governments to place direct pressure on the government of President Robert Mugabe. "As the church, we are convinced that Zimbabwe is under the clutches of oppressive rule, and those who are committed to democratic rule must mobilise for change," said the Rev. Prince Dibeela, general secretary of the United Congregational Church in Southern Africa. Roman Catholic bishops in Zimbabwe have called for repentance and an end to oppression by state agencies.
ENI News March 2007
Methodist Mission & Ecumenical
Newsletter April 2007 Secretary: John Roberts
Celebration & Concern in India
World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia visited Southern India in February 2007. Wherever he went Kobia was greeted with an array of local cultural traditions ranging from acrobatic dancers at the Church of South India (CSI) headquarters in Chennai, to Dalit drummers at the offices of the Student Christian Movement in Bangalore, to a golden ceremonial cap given to Kobia at the jubilee celebrations of the Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society (CISRS) in Bangalore. More cultural presentations followed in Kerala - the largest Christian enclave in India, most of whose 6 million Christians trace their faith to the apostle Thomas, who is said to have reached the Kerala coast in AD 52 in the company of spice merchants from the Middle East.
One of the most spectacular receptions came at the end of Kobia's visit, in Edavanakad, a Muslim-majority fishing village 25 kms north of Kochi. With almost the entire population attending the function, dozens of women and children showered flower petals on Kobia and other church dignitaries as they walked into the village whose 200 houses had almost all been swept away or destroyed by the December 2004 tsunami. On the site where CASA (Churches' Auxiliary for Social Action), the social action wing of 24 Orthodox and Protestant churches in India, is to build a multi-purpose disaster shelter, Kobia took up a trowel to lay some bricks in the shelter's foundations. "Though we are away from you, we will continue to be concerned about you," Kobia told the villagers. With the support of Action by Churches Together (ACT) International, CASA has already handed over some 4,000 disaster-resistant houses on India's eastern coast, and has built community centres, schools and other facilities in the 52 villages in which it is working. It has also provided boats and nets for fishermen as well as livelihood training for the people affected by the tsunami.
Kobia was impressed by the Maramon Convention in Kerala organised annually by the Mission and Evangelism wing of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar, one of the WCC's member churches. Here Kobia preached about encountering Jesus. He compared the world - where hatred is preached in the name of religion, violence against women and children is rampant, people living with HIV and AIDS are discriminated against, and there is a mountain of wealth amid poverty - with a house in flames. "The world is burning," Kobia said, "and God is looking for those who can save it."
A repeated theme in Kobia's addresses to the Church of South India, at the Lutheran Gurukul theological College in Chennai and at the SCM assembly and CISRS golden jubilee in Bangalore was the continued discrimination against Dalits - the members of India's lower castes, formerly known as "untouchables". "South Africa has abolished apartheid, and it is a sin to practise it in India in the 21st century," said Kobia in his address at the CISRS, referring to the plight of the Dalits in India's caste-ridden society. "Oikoumene is a movement for the affirmation of life - a movement to uphold the sanctity, integrity and dignity of all God's people," he pointed out. "The ecumenical movement must therefore embrace the identity of the excluded and despised."
Though churches have been instrumental in bringing about positive changes in India, Kobia suggested that they "need to be constantly on the move, open to change, and play a creative part in shaping the world in ways that make sense to the last and the least".
By Anto Akkara WCC Press Feature, 28 February 2007
News in brief
The World Council of Churches (WCC) has endorsed a groundbreaking climate change statement, fruit of an unprecedented consensus among high-level representatives of the corporate world as well as civil, religious and educational institutions. WCC general secretary Dr Sam Kobia endorsed "The Path to Climate Sustainability: A Joint Statement by the Global Roundtable on Climate Change" on behalf of the WCC on 20 February 2007. The WCC "will continue to participate in the process of bringing the concerns this statement addresses to the world", he said. The statement calls on governments to set scientifically informed targets for greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. It also urges them to place a price on carbon emissions and to set out policies aimed at addressing energy efficiency and de-carbonisation in all sectors. WCC press release 20 February 2007
A sinking paradise
Carteret Island in the Solomon Sea is fighting a losing battle against rising sea levels. The atoll is located 86 kilometres north-east of Bougainville and has a total land area of 0.6 square kilometers and a maximum elevation of 1.5 meters above sea level. Life for the islanders is not like it used to be. Each day they are having to build sea walls out of giant clam shells and plant mangroves to protect their island from the sea which is slowing eating away at their island. Global warming and climate change results in strong winds, heavy storms and high tides which washes away homes, destroys food gardens and contaminate fresh water. The islanders a very worried and are looking for vacant land on the mainland of Bougainville to resettle. But many say they cannot bear to leave their island home, which they love and treasure. The Nation 9 February 2007
Partnership with churches
Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, says his government is determined to work closely with churches to improve health and education services through a policy of tithing. Mr Sogavare says the government would be able to establish the level of tithe when its 2006 annual accounts are finalised and that the calculation would be based on the excess of revenue over expenditure. The Prime Minister said churches were already receiving more than $150-million direct budgetary assistance from the government and therefore had a solemn duty to ensure these services were effectively and efficiently delivered. Projects to benefit from government tithing include education, health, peace-building, national unity and youth development. Solomon Star 23 February 2007
Rebuilding peace on Bougainville
A New Zealand-based Film Company TMI Pictures has been on Bougainville to interview and film how people in the region are rebuilding their lives after ten years of brutal fighting. One of those involved in the filming was retired Brigadier Roger Mortlock who was the first commander of the then New Zealand-led Truce Monitoring Group on the island. Key players in the war and peace process at Buka and Arawa were interviewed. Ordinary Bougainvilleans views on peace were also sought. The Bougainville story of people who fought each other for ten years and then came to make peace with each other is one that needs to be told to the world. The documentary film, titled “War with no guns” will be ready by July and be screened at the coming New Zealand Movie Festival on July 28 2007. Post Courier 14 February 2006
Iraq war must end
In a statement for the fourth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq on 19 March, the World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia says "We hear the cries of the Iraqi people, the women, the children and the innocent civilians who are in pain and agony and despair. & Churches must continue not only to assist and support the victims of this disastrous war, but also to speak on their behalf and to redouble interventions for peace with governments and with intergovernmental bodies". Kobia praises the encouraging "upsurge of anti-war sentiments all over the world, particularly in the United States." He calls on WCC member churches "to pray and intercede on behalf of the people of Iraq, before God, that the war forced upon them may come to an end and that peace with justice and dignity may prevail". WCC news release 16 March 2007
So you want a speaker?
The Mission and Ecumenical secretary is available to speak (and use PowerPoint) on a range of topics. For sessions of an hour or so: The church in the Solomon Islands and/or Papua New Guinea; Theology for an inclusive church; Bossey – beginning of an ecumenical journey; Deepening insights - Methodists and inter-religious relations; Background to the Treaty of Waitangi; Where to for religion in New Zealand? – a look at the 2006 census. Sermon length: The church in the Solomon Islands or Papua New Guinea John Wesley and mission.
Methodist Mission & Ecumenical
Newsletter March 2007 Secretary: John Roberts
‘Rerouting’ Mission and Ecumenism
How can we ‘reroute’ mission and ecumenism so that it does not get coopted by empire? This is a question initiated by the Urban Rural Mission desk of the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) and explored at a consultation in Hong Kong in November 2006.
The story of the three Magi from the East who went looking for the Christ child after following the star to Bethlehem has provided a metaphor of an alternative route as well as a warning for the ecumenical movement. Herod, representing the empire, tried to co-opt the Magi, but instead of following the imperial command, the Magi, instructed by an angel in a dream, followed another route - back to their own country.
In the history of Christianity, ‘empire’ has co-opted the church and its mission. Hence, ‘rerouting’ mission and ecumenism is needed o free the church from the clutches of empire. One way to do this is to read the Bible from the perspective of the voiceless in the text - the unnamed slaves, the Canaanites, the women. Our colonial masters brought to us the Israelite motif in reading the Bible. But we are not Israelites - we are actually the Canaanites. We must read the Bible as Canaanites,’ said Revelation Velunta, a Bible scholar who teaches at Union Theological Seminary in the Philippines, and who led two Bible studies at the consultation.
Mission and ecumenism must be freed from the clutches of ‘empire’ the consultation affirmed. Since mission has taken an imperial connotation that assumes power and control, e.g. the haves versus the have-nots, and divides or categorises people, e.g. as mission-sending versus mission-receiving, there is a need for new definitions, new words and new stories.
Mission must begin with local communities and be defined as a friendship of equals. It includes self-emptying, not by some for the sake of others, but by all for the sake of the common life of all living beings. It may take the form of sharing stories of life in pain and struggle. Ecumenism should be taken to mean not only the ‘inhabited earth’, which tends to be anthropocentric, but also of the whole cosmos. The wider ecumenism has to do with sharing life and struggling together for life in the cosmos.
Hope Antone and Josef Widyatmadja, CCA News December 2006
The Bible versus MTV
A contest between the Bible and MTV, will affect the future of the ecumenical movement says Dr Sam Kobia general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC). He was addressing an ecumenical gathering of Christian youth leaders in Bangalore, India.
Young people are the target of much modern media, while churches struggle to communicate with them, said Kobia. "Even in the so-called Christian countries, the majority of the youth are Biblically illiterate but well-informed about the latest MTV programmes," he said, referring to the US-based music television network targeted at adolescents and young adults. The church risks "losing the younger generation to the infotainment industry."
Kobia believes that "unless something drastic is done now, the church will lose a whole generation of leadership, and without the strong involvement of youth in the church, the ecumenical movement will have no future” he said.
Kobia noted that the WCC is "striving to integrate the leadership and input of young people more deliberately into the different areas of its work & the Council needs input from ecumenically-active young people & It is the role of each young generation to pose the challenging questions and bring change for the better. This is not only true for the society and political institutions but also for the churches," Kobia said. "You are capable of revitalizing the WCC, and I invite you to do exactly that," he said.
WCC Press release 14 February 2006
Committed to Nursing in the Solomon Islands
Chris Leve is Director of Nursing at Helena Goldie Hospital at Munda in the Solomon Islands. The former Council of Mission and Ecumenical Co-operation brought Chris to New Zealand to study for a Bachelor of Nursing Degree at Manukau Technical Institute 2000-2001. Some of his fellow students from the developing world tried to stay on in New Zealand on completion of their studies and enjoy the better pay and conditions of work in well equipped hospitals. Chris however was committed to return to work at Helena Goldie Hospital. He says, “It was important for me to come home bringing my newly learned skills to use in the place where I grew up, and where I began my nursing career.”
Chris was a student at Helena Goldie Hospital’s Nurse Aide Training School (1990-91). He went on to study at the Honiara School of Nursing (1992-93) where he gained his nursing registration, returning to Helena Goldie Hospital in 1996. Chris has been Director of Nursing at Helena Goldie Hospital since his return to the Solomon Islands at the end of 2002, having gained some practical experience in New Zealand following his graduation from Manukau Technical Institute. As Director of Nursing at Helena Goldie Hospital Chris is in charge administering the nursing side of the hospital’s life. The hospital employs more than sixty nurses and Chris is responsible for their supervision, preparing duty rosters, as well as liaising with the Western Province Health Authority. Chris also tutors at the hospital’s Nurse Aide Training School.
Chris says he learned a lot from practical experience gained by working in large hospitals around Auckland, including Middlemore, Starship, and Auckland hospitals. Chris now has many skills and knows how to use them, but experiences frustration from a lack of equipment and resources. So why does he stay in the Solomon Islands and not migrate to a better equipped and resourced hospital in another part of the world? Chris says “I was born here, I started out nursing here. I had to come back and stay despite the attraction of staying in Auckland. In spite of this frustration I feel satisfied in what I am doing and see a challenge in working to raise the standard of nursing at Helena Goldie Hospital.” Chris would like to gain more skill in nursing administration. His salary is met by Mission and Ecumenical of the Methodist Church of New Zealand. Chris was married to Martha Pratt on 14 December 2006 at Munda.
News in brief
New development alliance launched
A new global ecumenical alliance on development issues, ACT (Action by Churches Together) Development held its inaugural assembly in Nairobi, Kenya, in February. ACT Development brings together churches and related organisations working to eradicate poverty, injustice and the abuse of human rights, with a particular focus on long-term development. The new alliance is one of the largest global networks for development. Besides co-branding their work, participants will commit themselves to the alliance's values, to a code of good practice, and to transparency and mutual accountability. The alliance will not channel funds. Participating agencies will continue to decide who they support or receive funds from. Christian World Service New Zealand is a member of this new ecumenical alliance. WCC News
PNG Church assists local development
The United Church of Papua New Guinea (UCPNG) has presented K14,000 to the Entrepreneurial Development Training Centre (EDTC) also know as the ‘Grasrut Yunivesiti’ in the Morehead district in the Western province. This a remote area neglected of Government services. UCPNG devel-
opment officer Biango Buai says there has been a lack of business opportunities with little in the way of banking services, telecommunications, postal and transport services and retail shops. He was speaking at the presentation of the cheque. The grant is to assist local community development.
The National 7 December 2006
Waitangi Day in the Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands Government Foreign Affairs Minister, Patteson Oti, praised New Zealand as it marked Waitangi Day. Mr Oti said “The relationship of our two countries is strongly interwoven, informed by a shared past and nourished by mutual respect for each other.” He said the churches have long been that initial bridge between the peoples. Hundreds of guests including Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare attended the Waitangi Day celebrations in Honiara. New Zealand High Commissioner Deborah Panckhurst said the connections were many and varied through the churches, war, volunteers, students and family connections. She also said New Zealand’s participation in RAMSI has offered an opportunity to widen and deepen those ties further.
Solomon Star 7 February 2007
Methodist Mission & Ecumenical
Newsletter February 2007 Secretary: John Roberts
Women and leadership in PNG church
Jessie Lowa says women can speak out and take more responsibility in the United Church
in Papua New Guinea (UCPNG). Jessie is wife of Moderator, Samson Lowa.
The men always say the women are the backbone of the church. The women in Papua New Guinea are not afraid to stand up but when it's a big church assembly and the men are there women will always take the backstage. I speak out at assembly meetings. I think my education also has a lot to do with this. I am a high school teacher. I know how to express myself in a way that maybe other women can't. In a smaller meeting it's okay because we speak in Pidgin. But in church meetings we speak English.
I would like women to talk out more. Women are vocal in communities. I think they would be encouraged to speak out if they saw others speaking out more. And the more we see women in leading roles – women who are match to the men – the more women will be inspired and move forward. In the UCPNG there are ten ordained women and twenty women pastors in training.
Men can help women take on leading roles. They have to mentor their wives. For example my husband gives me room to find my potential. Not many wives of clergy drive. He taught me years ago. When he’s in a meeting he doesn’t have to take me shopping because I can drive. He’s taught me how to use a computer, and knowing that means I am able to help him in his his work. I am also able to type things for the women’s fellowship. But even on spirituality I think he’s helped me a lot. I can lead Bible studies.
It’s important for women to make their voices heard because men and women are equal in God’s sight. It’s good to work in collaboration for the betterment of the home and the church.
Insaka, a CWM publication
Child sex abuse in the Pacific
A UNICEF report released in December 2006 contains details of child sexual abuse in Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. It states that “In each country children are sexually abused by family members and neighbours, and to varying degrees, child prostitution, child pornography, early marriage and child sex tourism occur.” The perpetrators of the abuse and exploitation are “overwhelmingly males and typically men with resources or other power in the community”. The problem of sexual violence against children is predominantly perpetrated by local men, says the report. In Papua New Guinea medical staff at the Port Moresby General Hospital treat one or two cases of child rape every day. In the Solomon Islands reports of sexually transmitted infections in children as young as between 1 and 3 years old were a clear indicator of the existence of child sexual abuse. In all the countries, the studies found instances of sexual exploitation of children in exchange for cash or for goods and services, including food, alcohol, transport to school clothes and small gifts. An example from the Solomon Islands described how a father rows his child out to fishermen to exchange sex for fish to sell in the market. Because all schools charge enrolment fees, there were examples in several countries of some teachers asking for sex from students in exchange for paying the school fee. Factors such as the low status of women and children, poverty and the lack of educational and employment opportunities and a lack of protective legislation, services and regulation, contribute to making Pacific children highly vulnerable to sexual violence. The report calls for open discussion at all levels as “a starting point for changing people’s values, attitudes, beliefs and practices towards children,” thus ending “the culture of silence” that inhibits communities and governments from confronting, addressing and preventing sexual violence against children. Solomon Star 17 December 2006
Sharing and fellowship at UCPNG assembly
The 20th General Assembly of the United Church in Papua New Guinea took place in Iokea, Moru circuit Oct 27th to Nov 10th with the theme "Investing in youth and children - Empowering leaders to make a difference". It was a spiritually fulfilling experience for all who attended. Five 25 seater buses and more than 10 private vehicles loaded brought delegates to Iokea where they were welcomed by the locals. Each of the delegates had their feet washed by the villagers before they were led into the church grounds as a sign of respect and honor. More than a hundred churches, cultural groups, families and friends turned out in color and style to participate and witness the event. Delegates were accommodated by seven major clans and groups in the village for the two weeks.
The General Assembly was officially opened by the Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane. Some of the issues talked about during the assembly were the provision of Christian principles in the Constitution to help direct the nations development. The assembly members were urged to make policies to improve and raise the level of spiritual awareness and confidence in people and to develop their ministers and pastors so they could properly lead their congregations. They were further encouraged to commit themselves to strengthen their congregations and aim to establish unity among people in all walks of life. Plans and strategies to help parents and guardians to bring up children in a Christian environment to prepare them for a more disciplined and purpose-filled life were also discussed. Rev Samson Lowa was re-appointed as Moderator for another term. The delegates were taken to the other villagers for outreach programs and to learn about different cultures and languages. They also enjoyed swimming in the sea and watching youth play volleyball or a game of torch football. In the evening they lined the beach to observe Iokea’s spectacular sun sets. At night village groups entertained the delegates while they enjoyed meals prepare by the villagers.
The closing ceremony was spectacular. Dances, singing and an exchange of gifts took place.
The assembly was a time of sharing and fellowship for delegates and villagers who put aside their differences to make the event successful. The last day was an emotional one as delegates and locals exchanged hugs and kisses. In just two weeks the delegates had become a cherished part of the village, its families, their lives and culture.
News in brief
Peoples Pilot Survey, Solomon Islands
A survey of 1,085 people in four provinces in 2006 showed that many problems are making life hard for Solomon Islanders - abuse of kwaso (home brew), the price of goods, logging, corruption and violent crime. Of particular concern was that 92% of respondents perceived youth unemployment as a problem, posing a threat to security.
Helena Goldie Hospital
A new Toyota Hilux pick-up truck has been purchased with the assistance of the Methodist Mission & Ecumenical. A National Health Conference held in Honiara from 13 –17 November was attended by Dr.Dina Sailo, Medical Superintendent and Chris Leve, Director of Nursing. The Burnside Rotary club of Adelaide has provided 14 new beds for the Children’s ward. World AIDS Day, 1st December 2006 was marked at the Lambete market with participation from the staff and nursing students of the hospital. It was well attended by members of the surrounding As well as talks and messages about HIV and AIDS, there were puppet shows, video screenings, condom demonstrations, singing from Dunde kindergarten children, playing of a theme song prepared by SDA Church youth group, a display of posters & poems and many other activities. Specially prepared World AIDS Day T-shirts were distributed
NZAid funds Solomons education
New Zealand’s focus in the Solomon Islands is basic education, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said on 25 November 2006: “NZAid’s single biggest bilateral programme is in Solomon Islands, where we have made a 10-year commitment to help the Solomon Islands Ministry of Education get basic education back on its feet. We are the lead donor, helping rebuild the Solomons’ education system.” Funding is for classrooms, trained teachers, a national curriculum, classroom resources etc.
World Council of Churches (WCC) head Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia has stated that the coup is in total disregard of democratic norms and violates the country's constitution. Writing to the Fiji Council of Churches and the Assembly of the Christian Churches in Fiji on 6 December, Kobia stressed that "any political problems should be solved through democratic processes". Local churches have condemned the coup, Kobia noted, calling for the military leadership to restore the democratic process in Fiji.
Jill Hawkey has been appointed Director of ACT (Action by Churches Together) Development, the new global network connecting church and ecumenical development and justice organizations. The position is based in Geneva in the Ecumenical Centre of the World Council of Churches. Jill is well known as the former director of Christian World Service here in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Irene Cornwell died in Auckland on 4 January. She served the church on Buka Island, Bougainville Province, PNG, with her husband Gordon, from 1949 to 1963. Irene used her nursing skills to lower maternal death rates and improve nutritional levels for the people of Buka.
Rev Jim Cropp died in Christchurch on 5 January, He served the church in the Solomon Islands from 1962 to 1971. Jim as principal of Goldie College, chaplain to King George VI High School, and Circuit Superintendent minister on Vella Lavella. The United Church in the Solomon Islands remembers him with great affection for the very considerable contribution he made to the life of their church.
We give thanks for the service of Irene and Jim and extend our sympathy to their families.